CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — People across the country are lining up to get tested for COVID-19, as the omicron variant continues to spread at an alarming rate. Nationwide, hospitalizations rose about 3% and deaths rose about 7% in the past week.
The state of New York, the epicenter of this new surge, reported its third straight day of record cases. Andrew Gross recorded this video Monday at the testing line in LaGuardia Aiport’s Terminal B parking garage.
Gross said there were about 200 people in line, less than two hours after the testing site opened. Mayor Bill de Blasio said discussions were “ongoing” regarding the planned Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration, and that a decision about the event would be made by Christmas. Currently, attendees for this year’s celebration must be fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test.
NewsNation’s Paul Gerke reported Monday morning that people were lined up to take their tests in Manhattan, where temperatures were in the low 20s.
De Blasio said that the city is ramping up its COVID-19 testing to reach “more people than ever” and officials are working with the federal and private sector to get more testing supplies.
In Washington, D.C., a winding line of people are lining up for testing in Farragut Square on Monday, which is about a block away from the White House.
Other posts on social media at this location say people have been waiting for up to an hour and a half to get tested. This comes as Washington, D.C., Mayor Murel Bowser announced a state of emergency for the city Monday, including mandatory vaccination for city government employees and contractors as well as plans to reinstate the city’s indoor mask mandate through Jan. 31.
The city of Houston saw an influx of people waiting to get drive-through COVID-19 testing over the weekend. Health officials across the country are urging people to get vaccinated in the face of the omicron variant.
Much about the omicron coronavirus variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness. Scientists say omicron spreads even easier than other coronavirus strains, including delta, and it is expected to become dominant in the U.S. by early next year. Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing an omicron infection but even without the extra dose, vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to address the nation Tuesday on the latest developments of the omicron variant. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president will issue a “stark warning” to unvaccinated people. He will also lay out “what the winter will look like” for those who “choose to remain unvaccinated.”